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Gunadhya – Author Of Brihatkatha - Story

Gunadhya is the author of Brihatkatha which contains hundreds of tales and is composed in the Paishachi language. The living period of Gunadhya is uncertain. He is supposed to have lived about 78 CE, during the regime of Satavahanas, under whom he was supposed to be a minister. But the tradition preserved in Kathasaritasagara (I.I.78-80) and Brihat Katha Manjari (I.ii.9.9-11, 70-71) regards him as a contemporary of Vararuchi alias Katyayana, the grammarian. The Puranic tradition regards him as a contemporary of Hala, the son of Arisa Satakarni, who ruled between the years 2644-9 o the Yudhisthira era, i.e. 495-90 BCE.

The reason why Gunadhya composed this story in the Paishachi language is narrated in the first section of Kathasaritasagara. The king had to encounter humiliation during water sports with his queens for not knowing Sanskrit. Gunadhya offered to teach him Sanskrit grammar in six years, while another minister Sarvavarman, promised to teach him Sanskrit grammar in six months. Thereupon, Gunadhya declared that if Sarvavarman succeeded, he would renounce, at once and forever, Sanskrit, Prakrit and the vernacular dialect. Since Sarvavarman succeeded in his undertaking, Gunadhya took a vow of silence and entered the Vindhya Forest, where he learnt the Paishachi language, which enable him to break his vow of silence. At the request of Gunadhya, his friend Kanabhuti told him the heavenly tale consisting of seven stories in his own Paishachi language, and Gunadhya, for his part, using the same Paishachi language, rendered them into seven hundred couplets in seven years.

Brihatkatha has been the source of many tales of India, and it may be regarded as the earliest attempt to present as a single whole the essence of the rich Indian imagination, which has found expression in literature and art going back to the days of nearly two thousand years before the Christian era. India is indeed the home of storytelling and from here the Persians, the Arabians and from them Constantinople and Venice learned the art, and the tales finally appeared in the pages of Boccaccio, Chaucer, and La Fontane. Gunadhya has been ranked with Valmiki and Vyasa, as one of the Epic Triad.